Canada Immunity Testing: Antibodies 8 * Cases

The media announcement is New study offers first glimpse into how widespread COVID-19 antibodies are in Canada’s adult population. Published July 23, 2020.

Initial results indicate fewer than 1 in 100 blood donations have antibodies to the novel coronavirus that causes COVID-19.

The header emphasizes how few blood samples showed antibodies, while the more important finding about reduced lethality of Covid19 requires searching in the fine print.


Today, Canadian Blood Services and Canada’s COVID-19 Immunity Task Force (CITF) are releasing initial results of the first 10,000 blood donor samples assessed for SARS-CoV-2 antibodies. This analysis reveals that over the period May 9 through June 8, 2020, fewer than 1 per cent of the 10,000 samples from blood donors tested positive for antibodies to the novel coronavirus. Antibodies indicate past infection with SARS-CoV-2, and population studies like this one tell us how many people have likely been exposed to the virus.

These results offer a first, high-level glimpse into an ongoing Canadian Blood Services study assessing SARS-CoV-2 antibodies across nine provinces. They will be updated once Canadian Blood Services completes their analysis of the full sample of 37,800 donations made during the months of May and June 2020. In addition, Héma-Québec will have results for Quebec in the near future, which will be important for a complete national picture, given the COVID-19 rates in that province.

“What is clear is that only a small percentage of adult Canadians has been infected by SARS-CoV-2,” Hankins says. “By far, the majority of us remain vulnerable to infection. We need to ramp up testing and tracing capacity across the country to interrupt any chains of transmission quickly to prevent unchecked spread.”

Acknowledging that many more adult Canadians are infected than currently documented, Professor Timothy Evans, CITF Executive Director cautioned against over-interpreting the apparent reduction in risk. “Among adults, the death rate from being infected with SARS-CoV-2 is likely closer to one per cent, as compared to the eight per cent reported to date among those diagnosed with COVID-19. But this is a highly infective virus that could take a huge toll if we allow it to spread, and we are only now learning that many survivors have persistent symptoms.”

This report expands on an earlier result from BC:

As is to  be expected the headline buried the good news Serology study estimates less than 1 per cent of B.C. was infected by first coronavirus wave.  Excerpts in italics with my bolds.

B.C. Centre for Disease Control research also suggests province’s true infection rate is about eight times the rate based on reported cases

The study is the first in Canada to report infection rates based on seroprevalence, which is a measure of the presence in blood samples of antibodies produced to resist the virus. Determining exactly how many people in Canada have been exposed to COVID-19 is a key goal of the immunity task force the federal government set up in April.

Timothy Evans, a member of the task force and director of McGill University’s school of population and global health in Montreal, said the B.C. survey indicates the province’s deft management of the first wave of the pandemic resulted in very low exposure across its population.

“The low prevalence of population immunity suggests that continued vigilance and adherence to best practices to reduce risk of infection will be critical, especially in the context of the second wave of the pandemic,” Dr. Evans said.

He added that the eight-to-one ratio of actual to reported cases is consistent with international studies and that he expected a similar result across Canada. The survey was based on blood samples from more than 1,700 people in two periods, one in mid-March and a second in late May. The data were gathered anonymously from residual blood drawn from individuals at diagnostic clinics in B.C.’s Lower Mainland. The subjects were males and females of varying ages, including children.

Dr. Jha, who is leading a seroprevalence study that aims to sample as many as 10,000 Canadians, also said the individuals in the B.C. study may not be representative of the province’s population. For example, the study may be skewed toward healthy people who were having their blood tested as a precaution, or by those who were already ill.

It also captured the presence of antibodies in blood samples before and after the first wave but not during the peak in April. Another key piece of information the B.C. study does not provide – and was not designed to – is whether the individuals found to have antibodies for COVID-19 are now immune to the coronavirus and, if so, for how long.

My Comment:

Up to now, we have only been able to estimate the lethality of Covid19 by comparing death rates to confirmed cases. In Canada as of July 17, 2020, there were 8839 deaths of people with Covid19 compared to 109669 confirmed cases, or 8.1%.  If the actual # of infections was 8 times higher, that ratio drops to 1% lethality.  Furthermore, the ratio of deaths/cases ranged as high as 14% early June, and is now down to 3%.  Factoring in the hidden infections reduces the current lethality to 0.4%.

Of course this is preliminary reporting while we await results from the nation-wide study.  I do object to the “second wave” narrative parroted in the media to keep the fears alive. Also the public is never presented the big picture about national mortality.

Canada Pop Ann Deaths Daily Deaths Risk per
2019 37589262 330786 906 0.8800%
Covid 2020 37589262 8839 60 0.0235%

Over the epidemic months, the average Covid daily death rate amounted to 7% of the All Causes death rate. During this time a Canadian had an average risk of 1 in 5000 of dying with SARS CV2 versus a 1 in 114 chance of dying regardless of that infection. As shown later below the risk varied greatly with age, much lower for younger, healthier people. Presently daily Covid deaths are hovering around 10, or 1% of deaths from all causes.

See Canada Succeeds on Key Covid Metric

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